June 15th, 2017

Universal appeal

Posted by at 1:16 pm

Everyone likes the idea of building a home exactly to specifications – often without thinking of the future – and future buyers. Here’s the news. The house is probably going to outlast you. And most people don’t end up living in the same home forever. Unless you pan to retire (and die) in your current home, a universal approach to remodels and maintenance makes good fiscal sense. The old concept of universal design was synonymous with “senior accessible” or “handicapped friendly.” And it is all of that. But it can be so much more. It’s about thinking ahead, considering angles. Seeing problems with access and usage before they happen. How many folks do you know who moved into homes without taking time to consider clearances, heights and angles? Big plans for furnishings, add-ons and creature comforts can be spoiled by narrow doorways or...
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Self-Managed Homeowners Associations

Posted by at 2:32 pm

With the skyrocketing price of homes today, many homeowner association neighborhoods are looking to save where they can. Some have found they can maintain desired aesthetic standards at a lower cost with self-management, where neighbors agree to share administrative duties instead of paying a professional management company. This can mean a huge savings for the growing number of HOA communities. HOAs maintain standards for landscaping and cleaning of common areas, and enforce rules for upkeep on the membership’s homes. HOAs often protect property values by not allowing neighborhood problems to fester. Majority Rules Some self-managed HOAs are governed strictly by the majority rule. In America, the one-voice, one-vote concept is quite popular, especially considering some recent election results! In such “pure” democracies, community spirit is often enhanced. In an increasingly stratified society where folks often just stay in their own homes...
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A gift horse: The home seller’s curse

Posted by at 4:32 pm

So, you put your home up for sale, with a listing price based on local comparables. As luck would have it, a buyer comes along within days – maybe even hours – and meets that price. Heck, maybe they even throw in an extra 2 or 3 percent for good measure. This is probably one of those times referred to in the phrase: “Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth.” But sometimes, when everything goes right, we have trouble accepting it. It’s a curse The “curse of the first offer” is well-known to real estate agents who have been around for a while. The seller’s reaction to an early offer? Almost inevitable: “Maybe we should wait and see if we can get more.” Today’s seller is probably right about one thing: There will be other offers. In marketplaces around...
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Homeownership: A savings lifeline

Posted by at 12:30 pm

With home prices rising to all-time highs, many potential buyers may imagine drowning in a sea of monthly payments stretching across many years. Naysayers bob to the surface with harrowing tales of home-buying gone wrong. If the down payment doesn’t get you – well the property taxes, maintenance and insurance surely will! These so-called “savvy” investors say renters who dutifully put all money not spent on housing into stable investments – like mutual funds – may get a greater rate of return. Criticism of homeownership as an instrument of wealth-building has understandably become louder in the last decade, after a Housing Bust that put more than 10 million homeowners upside-down, and 4 million more into foreclosure. Though most underwater homeowners have swum back into positive equity, and many of those foreclosures are mortgage-eligible again, the math geeks remain in a...
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Unmarried couples sign cohabitation agreements

Posted by at 2:36 pm

Many couples aren’t waiting for the bonds of matrimony before entering another partnership with similar monumental responsibilities – buying a home. According to research from real estate website Zillow, 15 percent of unmarried couples between the ages of 24 and 35 are making the move to purchase a home together, up from 11 percent in 2005. Generally armed with lots of debt, but two solid incomes, the idea is to get into the housing market as soon as possible. To be sure, co-ownership can soften the financial blow. But a whole new set of problems can arise when and if couples break up. Many do. One or both parties will still be liable for the monthly mortgage payments. Unlike marriage and divorce, there is no legal process for dividing shared assets. A solution is the “cohabitation agreement,” which like a marriage “pre-nup,” protects a person’s...
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Know your fire insurance

Posted by at 3:58 pm

Despite constant public education, accidents – preventable or not – will happen. And thousands of American homeowners will eventually make claims on their home insurance. While claims related to weather are the most frequent, it’s home fires that do the most damage. “Partial losses,” where the home is not destroyed, are common. Damages can be difficult to assess. Make you know your policy well, and know how to handle a claim. Call the insurance company right away, and make an appointment for their investigator/adjuster to visit as soon as possible. The adjuster is legally bound to assess any “hidden damages,” including smoke, ash and air quality. If the fire required action by fire fighters, make sure foam and water damage is assessed, as well. Don’t be afraid to ask questions about things you don’t understand. Terms like “recoverable depreciation,” or...
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New construction constructs

Posted by at 10:53 am

Existing homes are a great way to add your own chapter to an ongoing story, but new construction is a way to start your own book. Whether custom-designed or built on spec in a new subdivision, you won’t have to worry about dealing with the emotional baggage of a former owner. And as the first person to live in a house, you can generally count on a lot of nice amenities – new, energy-saving appliances, efficient plumbing, lots of closet space and modern design. You don’t have to smell anyone’s old smells, see what kids scrawled on the baseboards or find any “treasures” under the house from long ago. You just have to deal with the builder. So be aware that most new home sales operations function a lot like car lots. The onsite salespeople are looking out for the...
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Winter home sales can be hot!

Posted by at 12:27 pm

The weather outside might be frightful, but new research from Redfin shows winter listings are more likely than summer listings to fetch a price above asking. It might seem counter-intuitive to conventional wisdom, but winter home sales are often hot! Redfin’s findings showed 17.5 percent of winter listings fetch more than asking price, comparable to spring (18.7). Similarly, while 48 percent of spring listings sell within 30 days, 46.2 percent of winter listings also do. That outshines both summer and fall! Those great percentages stem from decreased wintertime real estate competition. People who are willing to shop for a home when it gets colder tend to be the most serious. They often have narrow time windows in which to move. Those with kids probably want them settled into new schools by the new year. They’re less likely to make lowball offers...
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The best time to buy? Right now

Posted by at 12:58 pm

If you can find what you’re looking for, the best time to buy a home is almost always right now. One of the best kept secrets in the real estate market is that there is no “best time of year” to do home shopping. Don’t try to time the market – it’s impossible. The right time to buy is when you find the best available house in your price range. The common belief – maybe better called a common hope – is that house prices are correlated to interest rates. When the rates rise, the prices of homes for sale must fall, because otherwise those homes will become less affordable – right? Sorry. There’s no strong relationship between house prices and interest rates. No one can predict how long today’s historically low interest rates will last. Not everyone fits the...
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Beat the chill bill with simple heat savers

Posted by at 11:36 am

The news is out – the winter of 2016-17 is going to be a cold one! But with a few simple home upgrades, you can conserve heat like a bear in hibernation and slash your energy bill at the same time.   The first place to look is in the attic. Is your insulation evenly distributed? There should be about 6 inches everywhere – more if you live in a colder climate. The Department of Energy and many states offer financial incentives. Use the sunshine to your advantage. Leave drapes or blinds on the east side of your home open in the morning, and on the west side in the afternoon. Otherwise, close draperies to trap solar heat inside. Next, lower the hot water heater thermostat to 120 degrees. That’s still optimal for laundry or dishes, and don’t worry, your...
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